On a sunny day in LA county, I took a trip to a free museum. My interest had been piqued when a friend told me about a new museum, all about psychiatry. It seemed interesting, so I took a day trip.
At man at the front desk asked me what I thought of the place. Given the context, I expected the man at the front desk to understand me when I said, “I don’t want to be brainwashed or antibrainwashed.”
“What do you mean?” he replied, confused.
Ok. I know my line was cryptic. But it makes some sense.
I didn’t say, “Do I really need to explain it to you? Your museum is called, ‘Psychiatry: An Industry of Death’.” It wouldn’t have helped.
The man didn’t realize how insane and polemical this museum was. He believed in the message.
The museum’s information was skewed, apropos of its name, against psychiatry. The tour consisted of several corridors made out to look like the inside of a cave. On the walls hung pictures and writings on the history of psychiatry, as well as audio and video kiosks. Without exception these were alarmist and extreme.
When I came out at the far end of the museum, alarmed and disturbed, my comments to the man at the desk were about the need for some balance in the presentation. No one believes a crack-pot, even if he’s right. And the sure sign of a crack-pot is a completely one-sided argument.
The man at the desk didn’t take the comments very well. He went off on what must be, for him, a familiar series of speaking points concerning the damage that psychiatry has done to the American and the human population. He didn’t seem to care that he was using propaganda against propaganda. He was on a mission, working against, the massive, decades-long, government-sponsored assertion that “drugs can cure our problems”.
He said: The FDA is now funded by pharmaceutical companies who lobby the organization to approve their products. That was a good point.
Many people have been involuntarily committed to insane asylums and psychiatric facilities over the last few centuries and have died as a result, or come out so damaged as to be unrecognizable. Ernest Hemingway was one of their examples.
Hemingway was convinced to check himself into a psychiatric clinic, stayed for some time, received shock therapy, and killed himself just days after his release.
The museum quotes him as telling a friend, “The treatment was a success, but we lost the patient.”
Van Gogh’s story follows the same pattern. He was forcibly committed to an asylum and committed suicide soon after his release. But he was not mentioned in the museum. Is that because it is popular to believe that he, unlike Hemingway, was actually crazy?
The fact of America’s drugging is indisputable. Many people take medication for psychiatric purposes. Valium. Lithium. Ritalin. Growing up, I became familiar with these terms as I watched my brother swallow a mouthful of pills with his milk at breakfast.
This did not alarm or frighten me then.
My parents must have been the ones who were frightened. They had to resort to this “chemical balancing” to keep my brother from completely failing in school, and, I suppose, in life. There was no other choice but to listen to the doctor and medicate.
This happens in millions of homes every day. Nine million children, or 20% of school aged people, are on some kind of psychiatric drug. Personally, I choose to believe in the accuracy of this idea, if not the exactness of the numbers.
The trend is importantly real. The trend, also importantly, has no popular counterpart.
This museum is the backlash. These images of “death as the direct result of psychiatry” and these ballooned statistics are the only “balancing” viewpoint. Does this justify the man’s use of propaganda instead of rational argument? Well, maybe.
The museum itself was an interesting experiment in propaganda. From the street, Sunset Blvd. (in Hollywood), the building appears bland. Gray, flat surfaced; constructed according to modern architectural principles. It is a tiered gray box with the words “Citizens Commission for Human Rights” spelled out in large, blue letters across the top.
Walking inside the double glass doors, a young woman extends a greeting from behind an official looking desk in a clean, well-lit lobby. The ceiling is high and there are windows looking down on the lobby from the second floor above. The words “Citizens Commission for Human Rights” are posted large above these windows too.
In a case near the door there are about two dozen headphone sets to be used with the kiosks inside.
Beyond the case is an ominous gateway built into the wall. The rest of the walls in the lobby are off-white, but this gateway is deep red the color of blood on the way back to the heart. The gateway’s façade stands out six inches from the wall, like something out of Ghostbusters 2. It’s a medieval arch meant to inspire the sense of looming fear we all should feel at the reality of the psychiatric industry. But I’m guessing here.
There is a quote from Dante’s Inferno above the arch of the doorway, ending with the words abandon all hope ye who enter here. It is difficult to cancel out the creeping sensation that climbs into your legs, but the room is well-lit and corporate, so the choice is presented: take refuge in the faceless business decorum of the lobby or enter the gateway and abandon all hope…
The girl ushers the patrons into the first room of the museum, which is a small screening room with a 15 foot video screen. She tells you to go through the next door when the film is finished. And you nod, amazed by now at the sinister feeling created by the dark of the room and its white, padded insane-asylum walls, which achieve something of their intended effect. You are a captive now, in the grips of the museum’s agenda.
The video prepares you with statistics and testimony so you’ll be alarmed and angered before entering the museum proper. When it ends the next door seems heavy with the material behind it, waiting in the dark corridors of the museum.
There is a flicker of expectation at this point, an intimation telling you that Gmorg from The Neverending Story will be your tour-guide, explaining in growled detail just how hugely evil the pharmaceutical industry is. I am a servant of the Nothing… etc. I will be your tour-guide. Your world has no hope, etc. Humans have ceased to dream. Fantasia is dead, etc.
The walls of the corridors, as you continue, are black, faux-stone. They are plastered with pictures of famous and infamous men. The fathers of psychiatry. Carl Jung – presented here as a fascist, bigot, Nazi. B.F. Skinner, presented as an inhuman doctor who equated man with animal.
A quote on the wall reads to the effect that if men were animals, then animals should be able to do the things that men do. The placard states that horses cannot drive cars and dogs cannot perform theater. Therefore, men are not animals.
At this point the museum goers should realize what they’ve gotten into.
A sh*t-slinging festival of propaganda.
The corridors twist and turn to maximize the space and to hide the next display. Video screens are spaced about every 20 feet. The intention is that the patron presses a PLAY button that glows beneath the screen and will then stand, docile, watching the video, drugged by the television, listening to the audio with the headphones received in the lobby, robots waiting patiently for the next stage of their assembly in the factory line. Headphones on. Eyes on the screen. Receiving the truth about the world they would soon enter.
The exhibits range from the “birth of psychiatry” to “psychiatry and racism” and “psychiatry and education”. There is a mock classroom toward the end of the tour, complete with miniature lockers standing open. Propaganda is pasted inside the doors of the opened lockers.
The museum ends without a bang. A final turn of hallway puts the patron into an innocuous, open room filled with pamphlets and a final large video screen.
The tour is supposed to take an hour and a half. If you walk through without watching the videos it takes about 20 minutes.
Again, given the extremity and one-sided point of view presented by the museum, I was surprised that the man would not understand my comment about brainwashing and antibrainwashing when I came out.
Later I realized that it is only natural for a man in his position to deny all subtlety and to look beyond the idea of balanced discussion. He is a figurehead in a museum called “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death”.
The free Museum is located at 6616 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90028.